GW’s recently appointed vice president and general counsel is currently working as an attorney for Blackwater Worldwide, a security firm under scrutiny for its operations in Iraq.
Beth Nolan, who will begin her career at GW in January, is well-known as a former counsel to President Bill Clinton. She is currently a partner in the D.C.-based law firm Crowell & Moring.
Blackwater is a private military contractor and security consulting firm working for the U.S. government that is currently under investigation for allegedly opening unncessary fire on Iraqis and smuggling weapons into Iraq. Nolan’s involvement was originally reported last week by The New York Times.
Nolan began work for Blackwater this year but said she will stop working on the case once she comes to GW in December.
“In my government and private practice, I’ve advised a number of different clients as they responded to requests from Congress for testimony and documents,” Nolan wrote in an e-mail. “My work for Blackwater has been part of that practice, and I, along with others, have assisted Blackwater in its response to inquiries from Congress.”
She said the constant media attention on Blackwater heightens the sensitivity of her job.
“(The media attention) adds another important – and sometimes challenging – dimension to the legal representation, but multi-faceted strategic counseling is a key part of being a ‘Washington lawyer,'” Nolan said.
Christopher Yukins, an associate professor of government contracts law at GW, said although Nolan’s name is connected to a rather controversial company, her reputation should in no way be tarnished because of who she represents. There are a lot of bad people in the world, Yukins said, but they all need lawyers.
“Just because a lawyer represents someone unpopular does not mean she is tainted,” Yukins said. “(Nolan) has a very distinguished career…if we judged lawyers by the people they represent America would be a different place.”
Nolan said her representation of Blackwater has been public and that GW has always been aware of her work. Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson, said she was not sure whether University President Steven Knapp knew of her Blackwater involvement. She added the University has a discussion with all candidates about their previous and current jobs.